Monday, December 1, 2008


There is an intense debate in Spain over the Catholic Church, religion and religious freedom.

Those on the far left take a very strong stand against Christianity and the Catholic Church.

Those of the right in general and within the Partido Popular in particular would seem to stand with and speak for that same church.

The Andalucía government has banned from schools all items that could impinge on religious freedom yet Christians would feel that this hits at them rather than other faiths such as Islam.

The Catholic Church certainly sees itself and its core beliefs being under siege from the present socialist government and those further to the political left.

If you go back to the Spanish Civil War and post-war dictatorship you can see the roots of this conflict when the Catholic Church largely sided with Franco and the right whilst those on the left were seen as the agents of Communism and hence atheism. Those chickens are now rushing home to roost.

The only other country I have lived in with a civil war in living memory and a strong Catholic background was southern Ireland. However whilst that bloody conflict is reflected in the Fianna Fail and Fine Gael parties of today both sides were always essentially Catholic so it did not evolve in to a religious divide. You have to look at the wider Irish nation for that.

Although I was brought up a Catholic it was in England where followers of my then faith were in the minority and to this day the established Church of England holds sway. So the Catholic Church was unable to influence and control society in the same ways as it once did and still attempts to do in Spain or Ireland. Indeed in Britain Catholics are still barred from taking the throne and in my lifetime faced restrictions in many other spheres.

I have long since ceased being a practicing Catholic and in Spain, which is now my home, I find a great personal unease with that church’s not too distant past. If I had to describe myself now I would class myself as a Christian with a small ‘c’ but certainly spiritual.

However I have a total tolerance of all faiths and of people who have none. I have a very limited tolerance of organized religion and see in it many of the ills that affect the world today.

I believe we should all be free to practice our religion but would equally argue that it is essentially a private matter and hence my or your core beliefs should not be inflicted on one another.

Christianity and Islam have brought to the world much of the elements that underpin our cultures and cultural life. At the same time they still form the great divides that separates peoples, nations and continents often in bloody confrontation.

If the west is to be tolerant of all religions then it is only right that so too should the east...but that is far from the case.

Sadly the divisions created over the years in the name of religion can be seen all too plainly in modern day Spain and in northern and southern Ireland. The foundations of these and wider conflicts are based on centuries of abuse and mistrust and I have no doubt it will take centuries to right these wrongs all carried out in the name of God – whoever that God may be.

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